Monday, November 5, 2007

Estabrook Park

We arrived at Estabrook pretty early and registered. After some confusion about which side the numbers went on (“It said ‘right’ up at registration!” “Well, I just asked an official and he said ‘left’. They must have changed it.”) we got everything straightened out and went for warm up laps. I went out early with Matt/Teal to check out the course. The team usually practices on it, but for the race they had changed the course to be a little longer. There were a lot of switchbacks and some more barriers. It was a good lap to check out the changes, and I felt pretty loose and smooth over the barriers.
Shortly after returning to the car, it started raining in earnest. Everyone watched it, either with apprehension or hope, depending on the level of masochism in the individual. In the back of everyone’s minds was a steep dirt hill that, if wet, would become the proverbial ‘slippery slope.’ Luckily the rain let up after a while, and due to the trees covering the hill, the trail didn’t get muddy.
As we lined up for the start of the women’s race I looked around at the competition- four other women, some of them on slick bikes and fit looking. At the start, I got stuck in the pack- not quite where I wanted to be. I was behind a woman that I’ve raced against these past few races and knew that I had to get out in front of her. If I stuck behind her there was a good chance that the other women would catch up. I didn’t know their abilities, so I thought I would assume that they were all monsters of cross. I broke free of the other women in the first half of the lap.
There’s not much more to say in terms of strategy. During the switchbacks I kept noting when the woman in second place would appear so I could keep track of where she was and if I was gaining or losing ground. I stayed out front for the whole race, and my teammates cheered me on with incredible zest. The cheering was AWESOME. Of particular note was Josh, who at one point was ringing several cowbells in one hand and blowing a horn with the other. He also ran alongside to heckle/cheer me. It was awesome to come past the group of Pegasus and hear all the cheering, and I definitely picked it up when I knew I would be in view of those crazies. I tried not to slack off too badly when I wasn’t.
The cheering was what made this race. I watched the Cat 3 race with a bunch of people on top of the hill, and it was incredibly fun to yell at and cheer on all of the racers. Most people shouldered their bikes and ran up the hill, but there were a few who rode the hill, or attempted to. There was one guy in particular who kept trying and falling just before the top. He wasn’t getting quite enough speed at the bottom, due to a log there designed to force people to bunnyhop. He tried several times, and the fourth time he didn’t make it, he picked himself up and turned around to much cheering. He was going to go back down the trail for another run at it. This time he made it a little further, but was about to fall over again when hands from the crowd came out to support him and push him on to the top. Wild cheering the whole time. It was awesome. The other spectacular ride-up was a guy who consistently dominated the hill. The last time he rode up it, he did wheelie at the top for several yards. A wheelie. Damn. I don’t think anyone got a picture of it, but it’s forever engraved in my memory.
Overall a fun race with an interesting course. It was great to have so many team members around, and so many Pegasus racers, at that. And overall a very good weekend of racing.

Kletzsch Park Cyclocross

The Kletzsch Park course, set up by Team Polska, features a nice little hill that the sadistic members of Polska seem to be very proud of. During the Cat 3 race, while people were toiling up the hill and team members and spectators were encouraging them and cheering them on, I witnessed a Polska member gleefully yelling things like “Suffer! Eat shit!” (Meant only in the best of ways). Needless to say, it was a challenging and interesting course. There was some singletrack and a nice long downhill section that was a reward for climbing that damn hill twice.
At the start of the race, there seemed to be myself and four other women in the category. There was a fast looking (nice bike, toned body) woman who was at the start, but seemed to leave before the race started. The official called ‘go’, and we were off. I had trouble clipping in, and was off a little slower than I would have liked. A few minutes later, I had passed a few people and was eyeing up a junior that looked like she’d be good competition. Little did I know that it was no junior, it was the woman who had appeared to have left, and I needed to stick with her and beat her for the points I needed.
I basically followed her for the whole race. After a few laps I started noting our strengths and weaknesses. She was faster up the first climb of hill, and almost always gained a few feet on me in the scramble to the top. We were about even on the second climb of the hill. I was a little quicker at the singletrack section, probably because of the mountain biking I did over the summer. I believe we were about even on the barriers, but there’s a good chance she was a little smoother and quicker. As you can see, I was using my position behind her to analyze.
I believe she got sick of that. Four laps in, she slowed quite a bit in one section and I asked if she was ok. She said something back that I didn’t catch, but it didn’t sound like “Oh, the pain,” so I let it be. This conversation happened at a point in the course where there were a few switchbacks, and when we hit the straightaway, she took off. It was then that I realized she must have said something like “Golly, I wish you would stop riding my ass and get out front and do some of the work.” After that little moment of revelation, I kicked it in gear and took off after her, catching her at the bottom of the hill.
So it went on. I followed her, trying not to let her get away and open up a gap. I studied where I had to really watch her and where I might be able to get away from her on the final lap. Ideally I wanted to get away from her after the first climb of the hill, because she could catch me on it, but I was afraid there wasn’t enough time after that to break away. I decided that I should try to get away on the singletrack section. So on the last lap, I pulled in front of her on the pavement and got into the singletrack before her.
Unfortunately, the best laid plans… there was a junior that I came up on half way through, and he slowed my progress. I modified my plan to ‘Ride just about as fast as you can in hopes of staying in front.’ I picked it up and zipped through a grassy switchback section, and was expecting her to be right behind me at the bottom of the hill, but she was a few feet/yards back. I tackled the hill, teammates Cale and Kat yelling on the sidelines, and kept up the pace. I tore around the last part of the course and started to come up on one of the female juniors.
Now, don’t be fooled by the female or junior part- this kid is talented. I didn’t need to beat her, because she’s in a different category, but decided it would be fun to try to catch her. She also dogs me at the track, so I thought it would be extra sweet. I came up behind her on a grassy straightaway and cut to the inside of her to drop onto the pavement an instant after she dropped in. Once on the pavement, there were about 100 yards to the finish. I grabbed the drops and dug in. I was cruising toward top speed and spinning away, but luckily not spinning out. She downshifted on her Redline as I came up on her, downshifted again as I was pulling even and downshifted one more time as I pulled ahead of her, nosing her out at the finish line. And as I relaxed and came to a stop on my inferior single speed mountain bike frame, I tasted the air, and it was indeed extra sweet.

Washington Park Halloween Cyclocross

Last weekend I did a special Halloween themed cyclocross race. Cyclocross races remind me a lot of cross country running and steeplechases. They remind me of cross country because of the fall weather and the courses they take place on. They usually take place in a park, and the course winds around on grass, dirt paths and sometimes through some trees or woods. They remind me of steeplechase because there are barriers you need to get over, whether by hopping them on the bike, or getting off, shouldering the bike and running over them. It’s pretty interesting, and I would say it’s considered the craziest of all sanctioned racing because of the difficulty and inclement weather sometimes faced (and run right thought). The races go for 30 minutes, which, depending on the size of the lap, usually goes about 4 laps.
On Sunday, I woke up a little late and didn’t have time to eat any breakfast. On the drive to the course, Andy picked up some cookies (such a nice fellow) and I tried to eat them but only got through half of one before feeling sick. I think it was because I was so nervous that I couldn’t eat anything, and not having an appetite is rare for me! I felt sicker and sicker as race time drew nearer, and was hoping that it was just nerves.
As for what styles I was sporting: I was dressed in costume as Angus Young from AC/DC, which I picked partially for awesome points, but mostly because I could ride a bike in it. It turned out to be nearly perfect, because it was so nice out. The shoulders of the jacket were a little narrow, so that when I was reaching for the bars, the sleeves were tight on my upper arm. However, there were no malfunctions, so all was well. But speaking of lovely pink bars, I was riding the Motobecane, a white rigid mountain bike frame rigged up for cross, of which I am now the proud half-owner (I split it with my friend, Kat). It’s a single speed, and I believe the gearing was 38 and 16. (Image 1)
And speaking of gearing, when I went out for a warm-up lap (people yelling ‘Go Angus!’), I was a little worried about the hills. There were a few things I couldn’t get up and over, but I figured it was just because I wasn’t in the race mentality. There was one hill, right after the start, that I noted would be a problem. It was a decent sized hill, and at the bottom the course took a sharp right, right at the bottom. This meant there would be no getting a run at it, something that would have helped me out. There was also a ‘bunny hop or die’ that I opted out off during warm-up, because I’m not that slick with bunny hopping.
At the start of the race (still feeling pretty sick), the officials announced that there would be a preem of a pound of coffee right after the last set of barriers for the first person get back on their bike. I just wanted to ride my own race, so I put that out of my head. When they yelled go, I pushed off at a pretty good speed, to try and stay with the leaders. Soon we came to the turn and the hill. I took the corner at the bottom wide and charged it, hoping I could make it to the top but not knowing if I could do it. My pace got increasingly slower, but I pushed and pulled and made it over the crest, now in the front of the pack with two other women. My teammates watching said that I (unintentionally) overtook a lot of people on the hill, even though I was on a single speed.
I settled into a pace in third. I wasn’t sure of how hard I could push myself, and there was no need to go darting away in the first lap, and the three of us had a pretty good pace. It was a good lap where I could sit in, get warmed up and comfortable, because I’m still not quite used to cyclocross. I also am not graceful with remounting after barriers, which is something that worried me. The first race I did, I was dueling it out with a girl toward the end and, after each barrier, would have to catch back up to her all over again. Luckily, in this race, it seemed that I was doing better and keeping up with people over the barriers.
When we came up to the ‘bunny hop or die’ barrier, which was only the height of a 2x4, I knew that I couldn’t get off and run it over because I would lose the pack I was with. So I took a run at it, lifted the front wheel barely high enough to clear it and made it over. Not a pretty technique, but functional. (Image 2)
By the last set of barriers, there were two women barely ahead of me. The officials were yelling ‘coffee preem!’ and such, but I had given up on it. However, when the women in front of me got over the last barrier, they didn’t remount but kept running to the top of the hill to remount. Well, I saw my opportunity. I swung a leg over my bike, got on, tried to pedal up the hill, couldn’t make it, got back off again and ran to the top. And thus, with only a little shadiness, I got the coffee.
I caught back up to them and stuck a wheel, and in the beginning of the second lap, we dropped a girl. From then on, it was myself and one other woman leading the race. We went along at a pace that didn’t have my muscles screaming in pain, but definitely had me working. I stuck behind her for a few laps, and the only disadvantage to that was her approach to the bunny hop. Where I would come bearing down on it, she would slow and do a clean little maneuver over it. On one of the laps, I was right behind her and she slowed going over it, and I squeezed in right next to her, which was tricky given the approx. five foot width. It was hairy, to be sure.
On the third lap, I took the lead. I like following better, because I can size up the competition, and I always feel better being the hunter rather than the hunted, but I’m getting better at relaxing and riding better out front. At the start of the fourth lap, the other woman took the lead again, which I was grateful for. I was getting a little tired and had made a few sloppy moves, which I felt gave me away as weakening. So while she was ahead of me, I sat in behind and watched her for signs of fatigue. She looked really good, but there were a few corners where it seemed she was getting sloppy, too. Nonetheless, she seemed pretty fresh and I kept a close eye on her.
As we were running up the last set of barriers (Image 3), I ran ahead and got on my bike just before she did. I had noticed on previous laps that we both took it easy at the top of the hill. We would get on our bikes and kind of recover from charging up the hill and then get back up to our quick pace. I decided that this is where I had to make my move. Since there was a switchback, I figured she might not notice I had taken off until I had opened up a gap. I didn’t know how much energy she had left, so I really took off and didn’t look back.
And it worked! I opened up a gap and kept it over the flat last bit of the course. I came in first, a little ahead of second, and both of us were pretty far ahead of third. At the end of the race, the woman I had been racing with came over to talk. As it is in many cases, she was very nice. I’m afraid I don’t remember her name, but it was nice to meet her. Cyclocross is competitive but friendly and laid back, if that makes sense.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Crystal Ridge WEMS

Crystal Ridge, my third WEMS race, took place on top of a converted garbage dump in Franklin, WI. Also on this ski hill made out of a mountain of garbage was a wedding reception and motorcycle lessons. Needless to say, they're getting their use out of the land. In the first picture, I'm being tagged from Jillian (left), who just got done with her lap. I'm getting on my bike and heading out on one of my laps. Image 2, I'm just topping the last big hill of the course and finishing my lap. Image 3, I'm relaxing between laps and cheering on the team. In the 4th image I'm standing with Kat and Jillian (l and r) during the awards. We're collecting our medals for first place!

The Logistics
For this race I borrowed “Satin”, a full suspension Trek from one of my friends, Preston. At one point on the course somebody asked how I liked it and I said I had borrowed it, and that I was considering not giving it back (ah hah hah). I kept the rear suspension on the stiffest setting (but not off) and the front on a medium suspension. I think having the suspension really helped, especially after listening to the other racers talk. The rear suspension was stiff so as not to rob a lot of energy, but just enough to take the edge off of all the washboard bumps that were so prevalent on the stretches through the grass. The front suspension was of course good over what few rocks there were, and was really only detrimental on the last hill, which was a bit of a bitch. Big ring? No thank you.
The course was a lot of cornering through the woods with some hills and straight stretches here and there. I was not incredibly fast through the woods, but on the straightaways I zipped along, which made me feel better: as if I were compensating for crawling along the twists and turns. There was a huge hill on the course that I never did make it up. I think I could have (easy to say that now, right?), but I would have been in rough shape. By the second lap I got into a rhythm with it. I would bike to the orange cones, maybe 2/3 of the way up the first steep climb, and then get off, suck down some water as I was walking and then, right before I got back on the bike for the second easier part of the hill stuff a large bite of food in my mouth to eat as I pedaled along. My reasoning was that I wanted to save my energy for the other hills and that drinking and eating something at this hill would get me ready to tackle the ski hill (not so bad) and the final hill (pretty bad). Besides, there were people watching on the other hills, which made them more important, for I desperately crave attention and acceptance.
One of my least favorite parts of the course was the switchback downhill of the ski slope. It made me nervous because it was somewhat loose dirt and rocks with sharp little turns. Come to think of it, it may have been faster to slip off, roll down the hill a ways and pick up the trail again on a switchback. Ah well, next time. But seriously, it was a shame because you had to bike up a hill and naturally you want to relax on the way down. Instead I was kind of a basketcase, gripping the brakes and probably holding my breath around the corners. I got more comfortable with it as the day went on, but don’t think for a second that I trusted it.
The final hill was one that took a little mental prep. Toward the end of the day I would slow as I was coming up to it, try to relax my breathing and then, as I turned to face it, tell myself I was going to get all the way up it. And it may have been in the granny gear, but I conquered it all four laps. Had I been riding a single speed there would have been no way.

Personal Challenges
When I’m not confident about something, I tend to try to avoid it until confronted by it. One example of this was mountain biking clipped in. I put it off as long as I could, dodging it with flimsy excuses. Finally I could run no further, and this race was my second clipped in. Needless to say, I’m glad of it now and can see the benefits.
The Crystal Ridge course forced me to own up to my aversion to tight cornering. I’m sure that the other racers didn’t think it was so bad, but I get nervous when turning corners on dirt or other questionable surfaces at anything over .05 mph. I decide to be brave, take them too fast, try to slow down too fast and then wind up in the dirt or whatever questionable surface it is. Well, this course was about half of that kind of cornering. Someone on the team said the map looked like a little kid with a crayon had scribbled a squiggly line around on a piece of paper.
Well, needless to say, I had to sit back and use my head instead of just trying to fudge my way past the problem. Throughout the day I got better and better and being more precise. I took my time on corners: instead of clumsily putting a foot down I would slow, turn the handlebars and thread the bike through trees and around corners. Other riders are thinking, “Um, yeah, that’s what you do”. To me, though, it was good practice for one of my weakest points. After four laps of that, I’d say I’ve got a lot better handle on it, which is something I’m pretty proud of. Next up is putting on the speed!

Personal Goals
I get nervous when I feel like I’m racing other people: if there’s someone behind me or ahead of me, I feel the need to speed up and I get all keyed up and make stupid mistakes. I feel like the kid who can sing in the shower but not in front of anyone. What I like best about these courses is being alone out there in the woods and challenging myself to get over or through things that I hadn’t been able to on the lap before. I always try to push myself to see if I can improve my time from the last lap. I like racing myself more than racing the other teams, guys or girls, out there. I never did improve the time from my first lap, but I remained pretty consistent. My laps were something like 46, 47, 49 and 47 minutes apiece. It was a personal challenge to stay under 50 minutes after I saw my first lap time, so I managed to stick to that.

Sappy Closing Note
Overall, a good time! It was great to hang out and talk with some of the team I usually don’t get to see (I’m looking in your direction, Chicago). Most of the time it doesn’t seem like we’re racing, and I like that. It’s great to be out there cheering, biking through the woods and sharing the experiences back at the tent. We can break ourselves up into racing teams, guys and girls or Chicago and Milwaukee, but what we all are is one big bunch of kids getting together and tearing it up on a bike through the woods on a great summer day.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

VeloCity 2007

Excitement abounds at Chicago’s Velo City 2007! (which actually took place at the track in Kenosha). A little about the festivities: Velo City takes place in San Francisco, Chicago and New York every year. It’s like a night at the track, but times three, in that there are many more different types of races all in the same day, which goes from about noon to 5:00. The first picture is that of the infield littered with us bike kids and our effects. It was really fun because most of us knew or knew of each other, and there was much cheering and excitement. I think you can see we’re having fun in the second picture, where the women are depicted warming up. (I’m the one in the bright yellow shoes.) There was a good showing from Team Pegasus, both Chicago and Milwaukee members.

But on to the exciting stuff: me, me, me. I borrowed a super light, super good-looking track bike from Cale, and took a bus down to Kenosha. I raced five races, the first of which was a three lap woman’s sprint (all of my races were women’s only, for the record). Three lap sprints are generally called Scratch races. Since it was a short race, I moved to the front of the pack so I was in the lead for most of the race. On the fourth turn of the second lap I saw someone start to make a move on my right, so I started sprinting for the final lap, stayed out front and came in first! (image 3) It was a great feeling, especially since there were some very fast women in that race. There was a second sprint race that I didn’t do as well in: during the end of the second lap, two of the women broke away and I was too slow on the jump, so I lost them.
The next race after that, however, was pretty exciting and interesting. It was what’s called a Missing Out, which means that after every lap, whoever comes across the finish line last gets taken out of the race. When there are three people left, there is a neutral lap, which is like a lap to take a breather, and then on the final lap a bell is rung and the three remaining racers sprint for the finish. Well, I was one of the final three, and I got second, again racing with some talented ladies in a race that takes a little bit of strategy and a lot of attention and even some mathematical skills. Such as, “How many people are left in this race at this point? Is there anyone behind me? Will she surge forward and leave me in the back? Am I boxed in or can I get to the front of the pack if I have to?” I think I got pretty lucky.
The fourth race I did was pretty rough, and I’ve got a bone to pick. But first, to describe the race. I forget what kind of race it was, but basically it was 15 laps, which is about three miles. One woman got out in front of the pack and couldn’t be caught (awesome job, Val!). The rest of the pack was led by myself and another team member named Michelle. We took turns leading, because ‘pulling’ takes a lot of energy. I think I’ve explained it before, but being out front is tiring and you have to be a strong rider. The riders behind the leader have it easier, because if they can get close enough they can get in the draft and kind of cruise along. Well, I was beat, but Michelle and I worked together and pulled every other lap for 15 long laps. Here’s the bone I have to pick: there was a very strong rider behind us, the ‘best’ rider at the track that day, who sat behind us and drafted as we labored along. I say ‘best’ because she was the fastest and strongest, but not very nice or even decent. Not only did she not help, but many people watching noted that she was making faces as we went around. I don’t know what that entails, exactly, but I’m quite sure she wasn’t making faces of gratitude. I consider it absolutely rude and obnoxious. On the last lap she came out from behind us and pulled away easily. Ooh, it burns me, but I take comfort in knowing that I would never use someone like she did. I also loved the support I got from Michelle, who was very encouraging. It was great to have a teammate out on the track to work with. Good teamwork!
The last race was called a Winnin' Out. The first person in on the first lap gets first and is taken from the race. On the second lap, the first person across gets second and gets taken out of the race, and then the remaining riders compete for third. Before the start of the race, we conferred and agreed that we were all pretty damn tired. We made a pact to just ride, and we decided who would win which laps. We stuck to the plan and had a good time as we cruised along, chatting and laughing. It was also a good joke on everyone watching the ‘race’. It’s something that would/will never happen during a regular race during a Tuesday night meet. It only happened because all of us know each other, we were tired, and also because no matter how we finished the race, our overall placing would not be affected.
Thus I won second overall in the women’s category! I won a special cycling backpack, a pair of gloves for winter biking and a very good, bright headlight, which I have wanted for a while now. Oh so practical! It was a great day to see team members I don’t get to see all that often (image 4, Team Photo as Tough Cookies). It was also beautiful weather- not too hot, and sunny and pleasant. It was really exciting to come in first (for the first time) and race with so many friends cheering. A thanks to Cale, for letting me once again borrow his bike and shoes, to all the folks who took the pictures I pirated, and to a fellow named TJ, with whom I got a ride home to Milwaukee. Also a hearty thanks to the women I worked with during the races, and to Val, who organized much of Chicago Velo City 2007 (final image) and the accompanying events over the weekend.

Track Tuesday, June 12th

This past Tuesday I went to the track again. The first picture is of me and Jason, a teammate of mine. In the background you can see people warming up on the track. To be honest, I’m writing this about a week after racing, and these nights tend to blend together, so I don’t remember exactly what races I did and what exciting things transpired, but I’m sure I learned a lot and had a good time. I mean, look how large my smile is in that picture! I’m almost positive I had a good time.

Kidding aside, the second picture has a good story behind it. To give a little background, I’m still not very comfortable with racing in a pack. I never want to sit in and draft, because I’m afraid I’ll get boxed in and be unable to make a move. I like to be out front, but being out front takes a lot of energy. I had talked about it with Cale a week or so before and he and I thought that, during a three lap race, I might have the strength to stay out front the whole time and have the energy to hold of the women behind me sprinting in the final stretch. This was an eight lap race, and on the end of the third or fourth lap, the two women in front (orange helmet and blue helmet) slowed way down as we came out of turn four. This is universal sign for “I don’t wanna lead anymore, someone else do it now.” I was above them on the track, riding abreast, matching their pace and wondering if I should go for it. There were about five laps left, and I didn’t know if I could hold the lead, but I wanted to try. As I passed by the spot where I knew Cale was watching from, I turned my head and looked him in the eye. I knew he’d be able to see what was going on, and what I was thinking about doing. He nodded slowly and emphatically up and down and mouthed, “Yes.” I gave a single sober nod back and dropped down to lead, which is exactly when the second picture was taken. Slick, huh? It kind of felt like a scene from a movie, with indecision and mind reading and all. However, it was not because, were it a movie, I would have went on to win. On the seventh lap, I decided to speed up a little to try to shake the rest of the pack. I should have either sped up more or maintained the same pace, because I basically just tired myself out too much. I led for the eighth lap up until the fourth turn, after which a lot of the pack passed me by because I just didn’t have the energy to hold them off. That was a little disappointing, but I think I learned a good lesson. Next time I’ll either keep the same pace and my energy, or I’ll make a serious jump either on the second to last or the last lap. It helped give me a little confidence, though, because now that I’ve done it, it seems less daunting.

Friday, June 15, 2007

My First WEMS Race

Results of the WEMS race with pictures! WEMS stands for Wisconsin Endurance Mountain Bike Series. They last for 12 hours and you can do them alone or with teams of 2, 3 or 4. I was on a woman’s team of four with Amanda, Kisha and Julie, who are teammates (Team Pegasus, yeah!) from Chicago.

I could explain in the race in detail, but basically the four of us did laps of 11 miles apiece, one after the other. There was a running start (see images 1,2) for the start of the race, and after that riders just tag off and it’s pretty informal. The other three girls shared a bike and I borrowed a mountain bike from Cale, because I’m a little taller. Actually, I was riding Cale’s bike as well as wearing his shoes and his helmet (see image 3). Thanks, Cale, for letting me borrow your bikes and shoes all the time. Maybe someday I’ll save your life or something and we’ll be back to about even. Anyhow, the bike I borrowed was a single speed, which means it only has one gear but has brakes and can coast, unlike a track bike. It’s also a 29er, which means it has very large tires, even for a mountain bike, and can run over just about anything, which I took full advantage of.

I was captain of the team and did the first lap, which was a little stressful. I was chosen to ride the first lap because I was anticipated to be the fastest rider of our four-person team, and my job was to put a good gap between our team and the other women’s team. Well, I put a good gap in, but it was in the wrong spot. Meaning, I was pretty slow compared to the rest of the field and there was a gap in front of me, rather than behind. However, we were just there to have fun so it was fine with the other girls. We had a good day and we all did two laps, except for Kisha, who sprained her ankle on her first lap. Some other riders coming in off their lap told us she had stopped and was walking (very nice people there) and we wanted to go out on the trail and get her, but it was against the rules, so she had to walk the rest of the way out. So the race went pretty well and we got second! Of two! (image 5). But the fact is, we’re pretty awesome for even showing up, and one of us hadn’t ever been mountain biking.

Other than that, I don’t know what else to say. It was a good time. When we weren’t riding, we hung out at the tent with the other members of our team there or cheered with our cowbells (image 4). We had a three-person and duo team there as well. The three-person team did well and the duo of Cale and his partner Ben got second (out of a lot more than two). And as some of you may know, our motto is "while you were winning, we stole your lunch" and yes, we did indeed steal another team's food. For the record, I'm going to say that I think it was by accident, and you can interpret that how you like.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Racing at the Velodrome

(Written a week or so ago...)

It’s been a while since I’ve posted last! I haven’t done a whole lot of races, but I have gotten in some good experience at Kenosha’s velodrome, aka the track. Kenosha’s velodrome is the oldest operating one in the country, and it has a 28% grade on its banked corners (or that’s what I hear, anyhow). Steep and good for fast cornering. One of my friends, Cale, loans me a bike when we go down there. To race on the track you need a ‘track bike’, which is a bike that has one speed and no brakes. It’s illegal to have more than one gear or any brakes attached. The bikes don’t coast, so the pedals move as the bike moves, and your feet are strapped to the pedals, for better or for worse (usually for the better). In order to slow down, you use your legs to try to slow the pedals. It sounds dangerous, and it might be on the streets, but on the track it’s standard, and you have plenty of space to slow down and stop (usually about half a lap after the finish line).

So there’s everyone’s lesson about racing on the track for the day! A few weeks ago I was at the track for opening night and I got to race four races, to varying degrees of success. There’s a lot of strategy to these races, so I was happy that I successfully finished, didn’t cut anyone off or commit any other party fouls. The first race I did was the women’s race, which was three laps long. I got stuck in a bad position for part of the race, but it turned out alright and I got 3rd place, coming in with my front wheel right behind 1st place’s rear wheel. Not bad for a first race! I then did the women’s unknown, which means you don’t know how many laps it will be. The officials ring a bell for the last lap and then everyone goes all out. One of my friends, who was also racing, and I thought it might be something like 7 or 8 laps, but it turned out to be 1! We were caught off guard and finished poorly. We felt cheated, so we jumped in the next race with the men (which is permitted for some races), and then a while later the compensation race, which was about 40 laps long. Since it was with the guys, I didn’t do too well, but it was good to get in some more races. During the compensation race I rode with Russel, who rides with the Hayes team, and he showed me some good techniques. We took turns drafting off of each other and I got more comfortable drafting and switching back and forth. It’s good to know how to do, because if you race with teammates, your team can stay in front of the pack without any one of you getting too tired. It’s what my friend and I were planning to do for the women’s unknown, but it was too short! Next time we’ll get ‘em.

I went down and watched this past Tuesday, but didn’t race because of the racing fee. Of course, once I was down there I really wanted to race, but I managed to keep control of myself (barely). I’m doing some mountain bike racing this weekend, so I’m saving my money for the entrance fee of that one. More on that one in a few days, I would imagine, and I should have pictures to go with it.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

300k Brevet

Last weekend I did my first Brevet. Brevets are rides that are done in sets and get progressively longer: there are 200, 300, 400 and 600 km rides. I missed the 200k earlier in the year, so I started with the 300k, which is roughly 180 miles. The week, the day, the night before the 300k ride, I wasn’t sure if I could do it. The morning of the ride dawned and it was chilly, damp and generally discouraging. See photos. (I'm the one in a red windbreaker and yellow helmet) Needless to say, I still had my doubts. I knew some people who had done the 200k, and it sounded like it did a number on them.
The night before the ride, we stayed at the Super 8 in Delavan, because the ride started at 7:00 a.m. from the parking lot. ‘We’ was Ben, Julie, TC and I. In the morning we were joined by our friends Val, Brean and another Ben. Looking around the parking lot, ‘We’ were the only people under 45 years old, and Julie, Val and I accounted for half of the females present. Your typical Brevet rider is a recently retired white male. I wondered once more what the hell I was thinking in signing up to do this.
The ride was an ‘out-and-back’ from Delavan to Lodi and back, and was broken into six legs. There were checkpoints at gas stations every 30 miles or so, where we had to get our manifests signed to prove we had been through. It was also an opportunity to use the restroom, buy something to eat and wolf it down, and get more water. These stops lasted about five minutes in the beginning, and toward the end when a little rest was needed, they were about fifteen minutes.
My game plan for the ride was just to stick with Julie, who is experienced at long distance rides. She warned me that she would be going very slowly, and I warned her that she would have to put up with me anyway. Turned out we were both fairly warned. She took a nice easy pace, and I stuck with her. I was occasionally tempted to go faster, but whenever I was, I reminded myself that I still had many miles to go, and that it wasn’t a race. Julie also nagged (helped remind) me to eat and drink, which I did with zeal.
The ‘out’ part was fairly decent. The second leg was a little hilly, but it seems that around mile 60 you feel as if you could ride forever. On the third leg we knew we were in for trouble when we turned around, because there was a pretty strong wind kicking up. Sure enough, when we turned around we were faced with a headwind that made things much harder. We formed a line with some other riders, about five or six total, and drafted off of each other. One person would ‘pull’ out front for a while, and then someone from the group would come up and take their place. In her race report, Julie estimated that I pulled for about three of six uphill and windy miles, and hey, I’m not going to turn a compliment down. Kidding aside, I was feeling strong and wanted to help out, so I did wind up pulling for a while.
On the fifth leg, people were getting tired and a little disenchanted with riding their bikes. I talked with Tom, a guy who was going at about our pace. I told him that for some reason during the ride I had thought of the new Spiderman 3 movie, and that it occurred to me that a normal kid my age would use her Saturday to chill and then go see Spiderman 3, and that would be an acceptable form of fun for a normal person. Tom laughed and said that when we rode past a golf course he had thought to himself, “Now there’s a sane sport.” Any other person his age would use a Saturday to enjoy some time on the course. It was nice to talk with Tom and joke around a little, because otherwise it would have been a tough time.
On the last leg we had to turn our lights on, because it was getting a little late. As for being tired, I felt strangely great. Don’t get me wrong, I was still looking forward to finishing, but I felt pretty peppy. Julie had to drop out about ten or fifteen miles from the finish because of a bad knee problem, so TC, Dave and I rode the rest of the way together. Dave was an older gentleman who was, in a word, spry. He maintained good humor and had a seemingly indefatigable energy supply.
How good it was to pull into the hotel parking lot! It was exactly midnight when I pulled in and got my manifest signed for the last time. After 17 straight hours of biking, I finally sat down to relax. I didn’t want to cramp up, so I kept getting up to get things, and I made sure to drink plenty. After a little while, we loaded up the five bikes and the five of us and headed back to Chicago, which is where everyone else is from. I stayed awake for the ride back, but when my head hit the pillow I was out for the count.
The next morning when I dragged myself out of sleep, I was surprised at how decent I felt. A damage assessment revealed an achy knee, a bruised bum and numb palms. Believe me, I got off easy. None of my muscles were sore, which I think can be attributed to my awe inspiring physical prowess and to some Shaklee endurance powder that Aunt Margie gave me a while back that’s designed to help with soreness the next day. I mixed some of it into my drink at the halfway point and at the end of the ride. I also baked some into some Frankenstein banana bread that I made especially for the ride. It was banana bread with some endurance powder, bran flakes, oats and honey to help it all stick together. How did it taste, you ask? One of my friends tried it and declared, “It tastes… like it’s not for humans.”
Which, one might say, is much like the 400 and 600k brevets. Not for this human. I enjoyed the 300k: it was the right amount of pain and suffering. But the 400k goes past Lodi to Baraboo, which is very, very hilly territory as I understand it. I would definitely do the 200 or the 300 again, but I’m not going to sign up for the 400. No thank you. Overall rating was positive, though. Lots of biking, lots of eating and generally pleasant people: that’s my idea of a good Saturday.

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Winding Down- at last!

As most of you know, I recently had my senior thesis show. Many of you attended, and that was great! For those who didn't get to see it, here are some pictures of me in my thesis space, taken on the nights it was open to the public. It's probably hard to see, but the wall leading to the end of the hallway had timelines and a polling system on it.
The two pictures on the bottom are from a late night that my friend Stephanie and I had at school. I was a captain for the signage committe for the show... you'd be surprised how much work that entails! I know I was. In the background are some of the signs in various stages of being mocked up and being revised and approved.

Monday, April 30, 2007

Trans-Iowa V3

This past weekend I went to Iowa with a few members of Team Pegasus to support the racers we had entered in the Trans-Iowa race. Pete, Dan and I were the support crew for Ben, Julie and Cale. This is an incredibly hard race that was about 320 miles on gravel road and 'B' grade roads, which are basically dirt (or mud) roads through fields. Racers start at 4:00 a.m. Saturday morning and race through until they get to the finish, racing eachother as well as the 2:00 p.m. cutoff. There is no sleeping and there are no official breaks planned.
Luckily, I wasn't doing anything so crazy as that. As support crew, it was our job to drop the racers off at the start line and then pick them up wherever they finished. Julie had to drop out of the race because of mechanical issues at about 11:30 a.m. on Saturday morning, Ben had to drop around 5:00 p.m. because of knee problems and Cale actually finished! It was really interesting to see such a race, and it's pretty tempting to register myself for next year. I don't know if I could finish, but it would be great to give it a try.
I will, however, be doing a 300k brevet next weekend, which amounts to about 180 miles. It's on paved roads and gives you a good amount of time to finish, so hopefully I should be able to tackle it. I get excited just thinking about it. More on that next week!

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Past Shenanigans

Here are some pictures of the other fun things I've done on bikes...
The first one is a picture of my summer self and my friend Joey. We're at a bar where the monthly Alley Cat races begin. Alley Cats are like a scavenger hunt, but for places. Often times you don't know what stops the race will have: when you get there they give you a list of places you need to go to.
The second photo (which is sideways?) is from a mountain bike race that I did outside of Milwaukee on a mountain bike I borrowed from a friend. Thanks Pete!
Third is a picture that a MIAD photo student took (Thanks Kat!) in Chicago before a race called Race to the Ends of the Earth.
Then we have a picture from a race called the Scaredy Cat, which took place in Madison on Halloween. I was a fire hydrant! I got lots of comments as I rode around.
Last but not least in the least bit is a picture of me on my tricycle. Did I need a tricycle? Mmmmyes. I got it at a swap for $25, and Cale helped me fix it up. Big thanks to Cale, even though you said fixing it was 'like polishing a turd'.

Warming Weather

I finally got that blog I've been promising everyone! It's obnoxiously pink, which matches Team Pegasus' colors. A big thanks to all of my sponsors, family and friends for supporting me. A warning to my rowdy friends: this is for my parents and relatives, so keep the comments clean!

So Team Pegasus is going into full effect with the warming weather. This past weekend we visited the velodrome (big oval track with banked corners for biking real real fast!) in Kenosha for a team meeting. What we met about, I couldn't say, but we did a lot of biking and I got a nice rosy sunburn. Yes, I wore sunscreen, and yes, I should have reapplied, shouldn't I have? Next weekend we're going to be travelling to Iowa for the Trans Iowa race, which is 300+ miles all in one shot. I won't be racing in it, but I'm going along as support.

My next race is going to be on May 5th. It's called a Brevet, and it's less of a race than a test of your gumption and sticktoitiveness. It's going to be a 300k ride that takes place during a specified time frame and your only goal is to make it to the finish line. I missed the 200k, and there are also 400k and 600k rides, but first things first.

The team kit (i.e. little spandex outfits) are expected to arrive this Friday, so look for pictures of one well dressed biker, coming soon.